Updated: Nov 10, 2020
By Abosede Aboderin
I remember my first encounter with the gender gap, I was a young intern at this engineering firm in Portharcourt, Nigeria. I became very close to one of the Human Resource Managers, Ms. Wambo. She took interest in me when I told her about my dreams of starting a career in Human Resources. I had become her ‘protégé’. After months of building a strong working relationship with Ms. Wambo, she asked me to join her on an ‘important task’. Payroll management. Before that day, Ms. Wambo had warned that she was about to expose me to very sensitive information, and I needed to be mature with all the data I was about to come across. I wondered why.
That Monday, Ms. Wambo sent me an excel sheet that contained the list of all the employees and their salaries. As my mentor had adviced, I tried to comport myself seeing all the data I was consuming. It was almost impossible. Something did not just seem right. Mrs. Madueke, the Head of Accounting, who was a hard worker and a Senior Manager in the firm was earning 3 times less that Mr. Bakare, who was her subordinate and team member. I noticed the same discrepancy with Ms. Enemuo, the Marketing Manager who was being paid less than some of the men on the same level in her department.
I asked Ms. Wambo about these “mistakes”. “They are women. That is just the way it is” Ms. Wambo shrugged in response. I felt a bitter taste in my tongue. I wanted to ask more questions. Why? Is it that these women are not qualified enough? Or, were they less experienced? - They were not! So, what was the reason for this injustice? It was nothing short of gender discrimination evident in this pay-gap. The only reason why these women (and many other women within the company) were paid less, was simply because they were women. What was more infuriating and disappointing was the fact Ms. Wambo, this woman I had looked up to as a mentor in the organization was been treated unfairly and seemed to still be enabling this injustice by staying silent and even implementing this sexist agenda. That was the day that ‘equal pay’ became a criterion for selection of employers in my career.
Globally, the gender pay gap stands at 16 per cent, meaning female workers earn an average of 84 per cent of what men earn. For women of colour, immigrant women, and women with children, the difference is even greater. In spite of all the progress made in the fight for equality for all women, millions of women still work harder and longer than men but earn way less than their male colleagues simply because of their gender.
What happens when you identify this injustice in your place of work or business? How do you speak up and call out this unfair practice? What can be done to make a systemic change?
We asked a couple of women how they demanded for Equal Pay from their Employers at work or clients in business and this is what we learnt:
Oyinkansola, 23 (HSE Executive)
"I sent a strongly-worded email to the HR Manager demanding an explanation for the discrepancy and a review to match the pay of my male colleagues. This move was unwise and non-strategic. The HR Manager responded with a well-written diplomatic email basically protecting the company and reminding me that these discrepancies were included in the company policy and the employment contract I had agreed to. I had no case. So, I did the only reasonable thing. Dropped my week's notice. I’m with a company that values my work and pays me equally now. They exist. Just find them."
Cassandra, 32 (Consultant)
"It took me 7 months to bid for this contract that I never got. At the end of the bidding process, the company chose another firm owned by a man. They said he was ‘more qualified’. I knew it was because they didn’t have the confidence in a woman. Weeks later, the company called offering me the contract. After my investigation, I found out they came back to me because the ‘more qualified man’ was too expensive. I hiked up my price immediately. Never heard from them again. I hope they find a ‘qualified’ vendor."
Amaka, 39 (Chef)
"When I started my career, I was told it was the standard practice. Male chefs were more celebrated and better paid than females. So, I made a vow from the beginning of my career that I would never allow myself be paid less or valued lower than a man. One question I ask at every interview is “How much are the male chefs in this position paid?” I add 50% to that figure, plus tax. The companies that want ‘the best’ would meet my demands. Not going to sell myself short."
How did YOU demand for Equal Pay from your employers at work or clients in business? Let us know in the comments section.